Senior officials from the European Union, three U.S. states, Canada, Norway and New Zealand launched an international effort Monday to fight climate change by building a global carbon trading market.

The International Carbon Action Partnership aims to add momentum toward low-carbon economies by grouping countries and regions that cap and trade environmentally damaging carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the scheme, local authorities place an annual ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions and issue "pollution permits" to companies, which can then buy and sell them.

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ICAP intends to push for a worldwide marketplace that will allow cross-border trading in permits that are bought and sold like commodities.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who signed his country up to the ICAP, said the nonprofit non-governmental organization is "a significant step forward" for the creation of a global carbon trading system that will be "fundamental" in arresting and reversing climate change.

London has become the center for the multibillion dollar market in carbon emissions, attracting investors who trade CO2 allowances.

"By working together we can make our shared vision of a global carbon market a reality," Brown said in a video message to the meeting.

California, New York and New Jersey also joined ICAP.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who last year signed the United States' first statewide cap on emissions of greenhouse gases, said ICAP would "provide more incentives for clean-tech investment and economic growth while not letting polluters off the hook."

The U.S. government has opposed mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, saying such regulations would stifle economic growth. But Schwarzenegger said the cap-and-trade scheme would not hurt business and would spread across the world.

"Just because you don't see Washington leading on this issue don't assume that America is shirking its responsibilities," Schwarzenegger said in a video message. He canceled his trip to the meeting, which was held in Lisbon, because of the Southern California wildfires.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said he was "disappointed" the federal government was not represented in the Portuguese capital but predicted the winner of next year's U.S. elections would "fully understand the import of the issue."

New York is one of 10 northeastern states that have joined a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Jon Corzine, the governor of New Jersey, which in July enacted a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction law, said the 27-nation EU's emissions trading system, launched in 2005, provided "a role model."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said ICAP would help develop more sophisticated emissions trading schemes.

"Putting a price on carbon is the vital 'pull factor' needed to ensure a healthy market for clean technologies. It's a major driver for innovation, for the creation of markets, and for future activity," Barroso said.